Caught in the Web

When Food Hurts

by Laura Emery, Field Editor


When most of us sit down to a meal, we understand that food is good for us. It nourishes our body with the nutrients needed for life.

But, for many people, food can hurt.

This is when food is no longer a friend; it becomes the enemy. Whether you’re a compulsive overeater, or struggling with bulimia or anorexia, food is a folly friend — causing comfort one minute and intense anxiety the next. Fueling this unhealthy relationship with food is usually a control issue and/or an obsessive concern with body weight, shape, and size.

Eating disorders like compulsive overeating, bulimia, and anorexia are becoming increasingly more common in this country. Ten million American women and one million men suffer from an eating disorder. And the numbers are growing at an alarming rate.

Compulsive overeaters gorge themselves with food as a way of feeling comfort, and then deal with low self-esteem when their weight becomes unhealthy and their behavior spirals out of control. But, no matter how much they want to stop, they can’t stop — and their weight balloons, and so does their susceptibility to weight-related problems.

For bulimics and anorexics, eating food is no longer about nourishment; it becomes about control, insecurity, and secrecy — sometimes even obsession. They can spend hours a day obsessing about and plotting their interactions with food, and how to stay thin and keep their eating disorder a secret. Symptoms vary with every individual, but common symptoms include looking in the mirror and seeing somebody else, a different person — one who is “too fat.” They might also think being thinner means being in control, and that a “perfect body” is the only route to happiness. Or, they might be physically and mentally terrified of eating, and feel extremely guilty if they do.

While symptoms may vary between eating disorders, those affected by these disorders share a common bond: they are powerless over food, their lives are unmanageable, and their obsession is shrouded in secrecy. This is where the World Wide Web can be a life-saving source of information.

If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, please get help. The World Wide Web is a great initial resource for information-gathering and support, but it is not a substitute for professional medical or psychological help.

Eating Disorders

National Eating Disorders Association

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Academy for Eating Disorders

National Mental Health Information Center

National Institute of Mental Health

The Eating Disorder Foundation


These Web sites are valuable resources for  information on any eating disorder.


Compulsive Overeating

Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is a 12-step program of members dedicated to recovery from compulsive eating. In Overeaters Anonymous, you’ll find members who are extremely overweight, even morbidly obese; moderately overweight; average weight; underweight; still maintaining periodic control over their eating behavior; or totally unable to control their compulsive eating.

This Web site has a number of articles on understanding compulsive overeating, and provides resources for getting help.



This Web site covers bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, which is a psychological eating disorder. Bulimia is characterized by episodes of binge-eating followed by inappropriate methods of weight control (purging). Here, you can find out more about identifying someone with this problem, how to help them, and where to get more information. specializes in information about eating disorders, including bulimia, anorexia, and binge-eating disorder, plus related topics such as body image and obesity. The site offers books on eating disorders at discounted prices, many free articles about eating disorders, newsletters, links to treatment facilities, organizations, other Web sites, and much more.


Support Groups & Counseling

This article talks about eating-disorder groups for support and recovery. offers a support-group listing as a service to people seeking support as they recover from eating disorders. This Web site is dedicated to offering support, inspiration, education and treatment opportunities for people with eating disorders and those who love them.

The Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders is one of the largest, oldest and most comprehensive Web sites available on the topic. It includes a tremendous amount of valuable information on anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and compulsive overeating, plus online peer support forums and a large treatment finder.  


Home ] Up ] [ Caught in the Web ] Cover Story ] Down Home ] Editorial ] Feathered Friends ] Food For Thought ] Happenings ] Reader Recipes ] Say Cheese ]